> GERSHWIN Orchestral works Wild/Fiedler 74321680192 [CH]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)

Rhapsody in Blue (1), Concerto in F (1), An American in Paris, Variations on "I got Rhythm" (1)
Earl Wild (pianoforte) (1), Boston Pops Orchestra/Arthur Fiedler
Recorded 1959 (Rhapsody, American), 1961, location not given
BMG RCA RED SEAL 74321 68019 2 [70.02] Superbudget


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Earl Wild once took "Rhapsody in Blue" on a tour of 50 American cities with the original interpreters, the Paul Whiteman Band. I read this after listening for the first time, and I had just been noting a certain tendency to "over-interpret", with ritardandos, pauses and tempo changes all a little overdone compared with the free and easy Paul Whiteman recording of 1927 with Gershwin himself at the piano. Maybe a touch of middle-aged spread entered into the act with the years. But on listening again, this time without a score, I felt maybe I had made too much of this, for here is decidedly superior pianism and Fiedler is as close to Whiteman in general style as anyone can be with a full symphony orchestra. There is not the riveting quality of the Bernstein version which seems to recompose the music on the spot, but (and this is the miracle!) without in any way going against the letter of the score, but itís very fine all the same.

About the other works there is little to say. The other two pieces with piano are all you could wish for (the finale of the Concerto lacks little in verve beside Gershwinís own fragmentary recording) and Fiedler on his own gives a lithe rendering of "An American in Paris", keeping the blues theme well on the move and supplying plenty of brilliance in the final Charleston. Unlike the Ozawa version I heard recently, this will remind nobody of Elgarís "Cockaigne".

If I end up by recommending this as a decent basic-Gershwin package for first-timers rather than a great historical document this is partly because Wild, for all his proficiency, does not play with a great deal of personality, and partly because the elderly recording gives the piano a rather featureless sound and allows the famous Boston reverberation to swamp orchestral clarity at times.

The booklet tells us that Fiedler succeeded Alfredo Casella as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra in 1930. This was a new one on me. Could the acerbic follower of Stravinsky, Italyís leading modernist alongside Malipiero from the í20s through to the í40s and a composer of some stature, really have conducted the Boston Pops? Well, an American Internet site gives quite an extensive history of the Boston Pops and assures us that Fiedlerís immediate predecessor was "the distinguished Italian composer Alfredo Casella", but I am quite certain this must be wrong and the gentleman in question must be a namesake. Several Italian sites give information on Casella and his activities around 1930 seem fully accounted for, and leave no space for a spell in Boston. Apart from the sheer implausibility of it, to anyone acquainted with the music Casella was writing around that time.

Christopher Howell

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